Lead Poisoning in Children Linked to Iron Deficiency, Environmental Lead Exposure
Children with an iron deficiency may be at an "increased risk" for lead poisoning compared to children with "normal" iron levels, according to a study in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Environmental Health Perspectives, the Scripps Howard News Services/Nando Times reports. The study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the University of California-Berkeley, collected paint, dust and soil samples from 319 residences of one- to five-year olds in the Sacramento area who had been part of a lead-exposure survey by the California Department of Health Services (Bowman, Scripps Howard/Nando Times, 10/3). In one of the first studies to link increased environmental lead exposure to iron deficiency, researchers collected blood samples from the children and tested for levels of lead and ferritin, a protein that is used as an indicator for iron-deficiency (Esquibel, Contra Costa Times, 10/4). A ferritin level greater than 12 micrograms per liter is considered normal (Scripps Howard/Nando Times, 10/3).
Researchers found that iron-deficient children had an average blood lead level of 5.6 micrograms, one microgram higher than those with a normal iron level. In addition, children in "highly contaminated" environments had blood lead levels 2.8 micrograms higher than children with sufficient iron. The Contra Costa Times reports that the "threshold for lead contamination as a health risk" is 10 micrograms. Asa Bradman, author of the study and associate director of UC Berkeley's Center for Children's Environmental Health Research, said, "To get kids below this level from a public health point of view, it seems that improving nutrition can help. But, we should not view iron supplements as a substitute for getting the lead out" (Contra Costa Times, 10/4). The only "exception" in blood lead levels was among the Asian children in the study, who had higher levels of lead in their blood with a "normal iron status." Researchers were unable to "explain the anomaly" (Scripps Howard/Nando Times, 10/3).